These news about Google going for a patent for technology that would rank the most influential people on social networking sites “rattled my cage” a little bit for a number of reasons; allow me to explain:
My dear friend Marc Smith (Sociologist, Microsoft Research) has been working in this space for so many years I can’t really remember the number; he has had a number of publications about it and has tried HARD to get these concepts into web search technology; here a sample of his work: Visualizing the Signatures of Social Roles in Online Discussion Groups and then some other work that has built on top of Marc’s work: Learning Effective Ranking Functions for Newsgroup Search, Erin Brill
Because I have had the advantage of being educated by Marc and others; as well as tried to apply these concepts in my own practice I hesitate to believe that it is possible to define a simple”Influence Number” that can be used in the absence of context.. in other words; I think Influence is a relative term and the actual calculation of it depends on the context in which the influence need to be measured; for example:
- If your social media effort has as an objective the propagation of a certain message then your influence is defined by the speed and number of new “nodes” a given individual delivers.
- If your social media effort has as an objective awareness and improved brand affinity your measure of influence is a combination of the reach (number of people affected, touched by) as well as sentiment (after someone was touched, did the sentiment towards the brand improved?)
- If your social media effort is about peer support then your measure of influence has to do with the number of questions answered, and number of people that benefited from it.
What do you think?